ELYRIA — Say this, three times fast: Dora, Doug, Dana. If they all show up at once, you’re either sitting in on a staff meeting at Ohio Sen. George Voinovich’s office, or you’re at an Elyria Catholic High School alumni gathering.
Either way, you’re in for some interesting political chitchat.
Dora, Doug and Dana — legally known as Doug Dziak, 36, Dora Pruce, 33, and Dana Smullen, 29 — are Lorain County natives who graduated from Elyria Catholic High School all landed high-level jobs with Voinovich.
Doug and Dana work in Voinovich’s Washington, D.C., office — Doug as Senate counsel, Dana as a legislative assistant — and Dora works as district director in Voinovich’s Cleveland office.
Voinovich refers to the triumvirate as “The Three D’s” and swears it was a coincidence they all hail from the same high school. Dana and Doug, in fact, had never met until Doug’s first day in Voinovich’s office.
The group’s former teachers say it’s not hard to believe they all ended up in government halls, since they were high achievers destined for big things.
Ask Wayne Uehlein, a former Elyria Catholic history teacher turned assistant principal and principal. Uehlein worked at Elyria Catholic from 1977 to 2001, watching Dora’s, Doug’s and Dana’s high school careers play out with pride.
“I remember all three of them,” Uehlein said. “They were all great kids. They were active in co-curricular activities, had good leadership qualities … they were nice, easy to get along with and never caused any trouble.”
The perfect combination for any teacher — or state senator.
“The fact is, if I were their teachers, I’d feel very, very good about these three individuals,” Voinovich said. “Often in life, teachers lose track of the kids they teach. One of the joys they have is seeing people whose lives they touched go on and become successful.”
Voinovich, the oldest of six children, didn’t have any problem rattling off the three alliterative names and said hey have distinguished themselves with solid values, good character and strong self-discipline.
Uehlein, who works for the Catholic Diocese in Cleveland, bumped into Voinovich during a scholarship event in Cleveland a few weeks ago, where the senator was awarding scholarships in honor of his daughter, Molly, who died at the age of 9 in a car accident.
“It was at the awards ceremony he said to me, ‘Oh, by the way, there are three Elyria Catholic graduates who work for me,’ ” Uehlein said.
It was one of those rare moments when a former teacher got the scoop on some old students.
“Senator Voinovich had so many nice things to say about them,” Uehlein said. “He’s just amazed that they all came from the same little Catholic high school. I’m just really happy for them and proud that they have those positions.”
The Three D’s are modest about their accomplishments, and all have a sense of humor.
Doug, for instance, said he’d do anything to trade the D.C. traffic for the lighter Cleveland traffic, and he’s been aching to see the Indians’ playoff games in Cleveland this season — maybe even the World Series.
“I miss being able to go to the Indians games in the summer,” he said. “I have season tickets to the Browns, so I get home for a few of those games.”
But he also said he’s passionate about his work in D.C., where he can call on his family background to learn about manufacturing and trade issues at large; his grandfather worked at the Lorain steel mill, his dad at First Energy and his brother at York International before it closed.
“The manufacturing and trade issues are such a broad range that I end up handling,” Doug said. “I certainly have a personal interest to make sure manufacturing is doing well.”
Dora, whose maiden name is Loflin, grew up in Oberlin, where her mother still works as a laboratory supervisor at Allen Memorial Hospital.
“I’m the senator’s liaison on all local issues,” Dora said, adding that she’s one of six people across the state serving Voinovich in similar capacities.
Dana, whose maiden name is Bearer, grew up by Spring Valley County Club in Elyria, where her family still lives.
She said growing up in Elyria and then working in state government allows her and the other two D’s to delve into Lorain County’s key issues.
“It’s certainly helpful,” Dana said. “We know the area so well, we can relate to things that are going on in the county and Northeast Ohio.”
For now, the Three D’s are enjoying their dynasty as … well, The Three D’s.
“I never thought I’d be here as long as I am,” Dana said. “It’s something new every day and so exciting — it’s an environment that challenges you.”
Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.